Locks Hold Their Own in the World of Self-Storage Security: Crime-Stopping and Marketing Power

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By Rich Morahan

Self-storage locks with construction and keyway mechanisms provide as much protection and deterrent as other high-tech security items. But for many operators dazzled by the latest technology, locks are just an afterthought. Instead, the lock, particularly a high-security one, should be at the front and center of every facility’s marketing program.

Bill Green has used high-security cylinder locks for more than 10 years at Double J Court Self-Storage in Wickenburg, Ariz. He capitalizes on this in his marketing program. When prospects call, Green and his managers discuss the features of the facility by noting their security first, “Let me tell you about our lock system…”

Double J Court’s lock system is the only flush-mount deadbolt-cylinder system in the facility’s market. Green and his team have built their sales message around the locking system, noting its drill- and pick-resistant keyway and unique registered, non-duplicatable key.

Green doesn’t emphasize gates or alarms or cameras in his presentation. “I tell them we stop thieves at the door. Cameras record crime. This lock stops crime,” he says. The lock mechanism is built around 11 rotating disks and a unique key with more than three million usable key combinations. The system was invented early in the last century and continues to prove itself in industries such as trucking, vending and gaming.

Cylinder Disks

Because there’s no fast, safe way to bypass the lock, the system Green uses is master-keyed. With three million usable key combinations, Green knows only his master key and the customer’s registered key can operate the lock. Customers acknowledge the presence of a master key in the lease, and naturally it’s stored offsite under management control.

In some areas, safety may be a reason to restrict after-hours facility access, but the cylinder system sets a high level of security at the door that works against the odds of potential thieves. Green allows 24-hour access to his site. “With the doors secure, we can let them come and go.”

During his years in Wickenburg, a resort area in North Arizona, Green has met resistance to a high-security master-key system only once or twice, but then he’s also had opposition regarding copying IDs or asking for pictures of renters. “If they’re hesitant, maybe they’re not the kind of customers we want,” he says.

Security Under the Freeway

Sometimes necessity can create an advantage. Because Hollywood Self-Storage is located under and adjacent to one of California’s many freeways, the local fire marshal required the owners to install a master-key system to provide fast, easy access in any type of emergency or threat situation. Co-managers Roberta and David Colburn have turned this necessity to their advantage.

David, who managed apartment buildings before this facility, builds his marketing around the lock. “When I explain how the lock works and the security benefits, our new customers are pleased. We’ve never lost one because of the lock, and we’ve never had a break-in,” he says.

Hollywood Self-Storage uses disk locks and padlocks with a hardened steel shackle rather than a cylinder lock. The virtually pick- and drill-proof keyway provides nearly the same level of security as the cylinder lock without requiring new latches. Used in a cylinder-lock system or with padlocks, high-security locks are not passive technology on display, but tools that provide the final barrier against a thief while creating a marketing advantage.

Make the Sale

A high-security lock does require one thing most security devices don’t—an active and knowledgeable sales team. High-tech security devices such as cameras and access-control gates appear to sell themselves. To get the benefit of a high-security lock system, however, facility management needs to make a commitment to train staff and promote it.

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